Among the OASIS and Shardblades

So this has been an eventful week for me.

Work things have occurred. Things that are forcing me to move forward with plans, no matter if I like it or not. One day, I will speak of these things openly. But not today. As of today, it’s still time to just say that things outside of my control have begun…and now I must stay ahead of them.

In addition, I took the time today at lunch to use the program “Aeon Timeline” to plot out the existing timeline of “Steam and Magic.” Why is this important? Because it’s been driving me crazy on the length of time it will take for the Rose to reach one point from another. And now that I have that planned and plotted, I finally got to look and realize where I needed plot points to happen and how they could fit together. I finally have a few things to write. I’ve been stuck in this forever.

At the moment, I’m still waiting for my very busy friend to get a free moment to finish the critiques on “Beyond the Waterfall.” I promised not to publish until she was done. And since she’s so busy with her own work, it might be a bit until that sees the light of day. Just be patient. It’s coming, I promise.

I had a lovely day with Tali yesterday. Just a wonderful day. In fact, we spent a vast majority of the day listening to “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. And that’s the main topic for today’s blog. I want to write down my thoughts on “Ready Player One” and Brandon Sanderson’s “Way of Kings.”

Oh yes, I’ll try and avoid any spoilers.

The Stormlight Archive: Book 1: The Way of Kings

I’ll start with the official synopsis, taken from Sanderson’s website.

Widely acclaimed for his work completing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga, Brandon Sanderson now begins a grand cycle of his own, one every bit as ambitious and immersive.

Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars are fought for them, and won by them.

One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by overpowering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.

Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under the eminent scholar and notorious heretic Jasnah Kholin, Dalinar’s niece. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.

The result of more than ten years of planning, writing, and worldbuilding, The Way of Kings is but the opening movement of the Stormlight Archive, a bold masterpiece in the making.

Speak again the ancient oaths,

Life before death.
Strength before weakness.
Journey before destination.

and return to men the Shards they once bore.

The Knights Radiant must stand again.

I should mention that I listened to this through Audible.com, which is my go to source for all Audiobooks. It was narrated by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer. Let’s start with them. I’ve listened to these two before, since they were the two who did the “Wheel of Time” series…and they drove me batty. But I started to realize my problem was so much with the narrative, but the books as well. I had been used to the narrator for the Discworld series, Stephen Briggs and Nigel Planer (Planer is just freaking AMAZING). These two readers were powerful, entertaining and just slightly crazy. However, Reading and Kramer are much more subtle. They’re a bit monotone. They don’t really get passionate in their readings. Don’t get me wrong, they’re total professionals, but it can come across as dull.

However, it’s more about the book, right? Way of Kings takes a long time to get moving. And it’s huge at 45 hours for the Audiobook version. It’s very slow going at the beginning and it’s frankly not until the end where the three main character threads intertwine. However, the sheer richness of this world is almost overwhelming. I can’t handle it all. Even after reading the entire first book, I get the feeling that I’ve only seen a corner of the world, a tiny sliver of an enormous boulder. Sanderson has world-built this place better than anything I’ve ever seen. It’s astounding.

And the characters? Amazing. Simply amazing. You really get in connection with these characters. What drives them, what they hate, what they love and what they dream. I don’t think I’ve read any of his stories where characters have been so richly defined.

The magic system is also very interesting, but instead of revealing most of it like he does in his other books, Sanderson takes his time. You get the feeling he’s only touched the surface as to what the magic system can do…and what’s really powering it. In the end, you’re left with more questions than answers.

The finale is simply EPIC. Sanderson is well known for his spectacular fight scenes and this one does not disappoint. We have a full scale WAR going on here at the end of the story. But the true shockers are the brief one-perspectrive chapters at the end. The final revelation at the end of the book? That twist will probably pop your head right off. I’m still reeling from it days afterward.

In the end, this is Sanderson writ large. While it takes a good long while to get going, it’s worth the wait. It doesn’t grab you quite as powerfully as the others, but by the time you reach the end, you’ll find yourself unable to stop. It’s a great ride. And I’m looking forward to the next book which I just might read next. You definitely need to check it out. 

 

Ready Player One

At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.

A quest for the ultimate prize.

Are you ready?

Okay, I’ve had friends recommend this to me before, but I was in the middle of Way of Kings at the time and got away from audiobooks for a while. Once I finished Way of Kings, this was the next book on my list. And I think I finished the audiobook version, all 15 hours of it, in three days. In fact, I was listening to it with Tali most of the time. Every commute that I could (save for those with Caitlyn, because she could repeat some of those words…and the main characters tend to enjoy their colorful language), too.

Let me first get one thing out of the way: there are plenty of infodumps in this book. Especially when you’re listening to the Audible version of it. Sometimes they can be so long that you forget the events the characters were going through. However, I was willing to forgive it because the backstory on the world, the OASIS and the characters was so damn interesting. I kept losing myself within these miniature stories-within-a-story. It was somewhat jarring to come back out of them, but the flow was good enough that it pulled you right back into the main story. (So imagine if Lost had actually told a story well…, but I digress).

While I’m not the greatest fan of Wil Wheaton’s narration (I don’t feel he does that great with different voices or accents), this story was just amazing. I love all the nostalgia. While I’m about five years too young to enjoy all of the references, I do remember the Colossal Cave Adventure. I played Joust on the Atari (when most kids were playing with Nintendo…my parents didn’t exactly help my gaming career save for some PC games). I remember the tales of Dungeons and Dragons, though sadly I’ve never actually played a game (something I still regret to this day).

This book is a celebration of some of the most iconic pop culture that still defines our era.

But the best part to me was the relationships and the revelations. More than anything I wanted to see the answer to the “will they/won’t they.” I love seeing these people who are unabashed shut ins and social pariahs building real relationships that move past the borders of fantasy and into reality. They become real people even as they fight for a virtual reality. And I think that’s the greatest accomplishment of this book.

The OASIS currently has a present-day counterpart. Second Life. You could also argue that it also lives on in Everquest, SW:ToR, WoW and all the other MMORPGs. I know how addicting being someone else can be. I was insanely addicted to Second Life…so much so that it almost wrecked my real life in ways that are a bit too personal to discuss on a public blog. Needless to say, I made a vow to myself and my wife that I would never enter Linden Lab’s game ever again. The temptation is just too strong.

And that might be the reason this book resonates with me so very much. I’ve been in the main character’s shoes. I’ve created new personas online and metaphorically passed through the screen, becoming this other person. It happened before I was married and sadly, a few times afterwards too.

And I think that’s why I loved this book so much. Because of the ending. Because we all have villains in our lives we would love to fight using giant mechs, plasma rifles and elven swords. They might not be the world-crushing baddie, but we all have bullies and jerks around us that we wish we could challenge to single combat. And in the end, we all want to be heroes of our own lives. This book has that in spades.

Good characters, great references, fantastic action. This is a required read for anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s…and doesn’t mind playing the occasional game. 😉 A must buy.

 

Well, this is already at 2138 words. Way longer than my last few posts put together. But I was super-passionate about these two books, especially “Ready Player One.” I admit I’m sad that I don’t get to listen to Wil’s voice anymore for the story. I’m sorta hoping we might get a sequel someday. Maybe, maybe not. No matter, it’s still a damn fine book. Both are.

I don’t have a PMV for you today. I regret to inform you that my favorite MLP fan-animation studio “Jan Animations” got hit with a Cease and Desist order a few days ago due to trademark issues. It’s a long story and there’s someone who’s already talked about it far more effectively than I can. I’m hoping Jan and Hasbro can work out some sort of deal…but I’m also glad I saved all of his amazing videos to my computer.

So tonight, I will just wish you good luck and have fun.

-rks

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In the Corridors of Light and Dreams…DONE!

I’m so happy to finally announce that “In the Corridors of Light and Dreams” is DONE!

Well, the first draft as well.

It’s 708 pages and clocks in at a whopping 175,000 words. Yeah, it’s freaking huge. I know. And it needs a ton of work still. It will not see the light of day for a while, so don’t get too excited about this. But I’m fairly happy with the ending, even though the beginning still makes me cringe. But the point? The point is it’s done!

So what’s next?

Well, I’m going to take the next couple of weeks off for editing Soul of the Scribe. I want to push myself forward to get that ready for critique. In fact, there’s a comment in the last post I need to read about specifically that! I’m just doing this at the last moment before it’s time for me to move on. But I’m keeping my promise and doing it once a week! Awesome, right?

I just finished my read through of Soul and I’m very happy with it. Chapter 6 still has an enormous emotional impact. It hits like a sledgehammer. And Chapter 7 makes me dance because of just how freaking funny the start is. And after letting a story sit for several months and coming back to see it in such good shape? It’s a good sign.

Nothing else to report for now. Except for I am planning on doing Camp NaNoWriMo! I’m aiming for 40K. Don’t want to kill myself…much.

Heh.

Good luck and have fun folks!

-rks

Calling All Beta Readers!

Soul of the Scribe

It’s official. Soul of the Scribe Version Beta 5 is done! I am satisfied I’ve fixed all major plot holes and created a far better flow to the story. All the various foreshadowing is in there, along with the proper descriptions and consistency. It’s now finally time to have other eyes on the pages than mine!

I have several beta readers I know personally already, so I’m doing a very limited beta reader run for those interested. It’ll only be a handful, but if you’re interested, add a comment and we’ll try to make things happen!

I’m really excited about this opportunity to share something I think it at least close to publishable quality.

The only catch is, people aren’t allowed to be offended if I decide to not take their advice. 😉

Moments of Transition, Moments of Revelation

I had another interview with a different store. Somehow I got a second one though I was sure I completely made an idiot out of myself for the first one. However, I felt really good about this interview. I hit it off well with the manager and we had a very comfortable conversation. I’m praying hard. Really hard. I think this is what needs to happen. And this feels different somehow…

“All of life can be broken down into moments of transition or moments of revelation. This had the feeling of both.” – G’kar, Z’ha’dum, Babylon 5

This captures my thoughts on the subject quite well. It’s been resonating clearly.

Warcraft Victories

I’ll admit I’m stoked. I got the Twilight Drake from OS25 3D a week ago after a huge guild meeting. The guild leader actually passed the drake to me when she had won. I’ve been running this for months when possible and while I love my guildies, I was frustrated when I kept losing the drake. And I’m not the kind of person to reserve or ninja. Ever. I also hit Exalted with the Guild on Lyssinna, getting me up to 40 Exalted Reputations and earning me the Dark Phoenix, Golden King and Dark Phoenix Hatchling. Symira is also up to 85 and is now quickly gearing up to be a full heroic healer. And Tyrimon is now successfully tanking Dragon Soul LFRs. 🙂

What’s on the Horizon

-We’re very excited to get a new iMac today! It won’t be my primary machine, but it will allow us to do some really cool things in the house.

-I’m moving forward with Perelandra College for my BA in Writing. I don’t know if Apple will fully cover the cost…or even any of the cost, but I’m going to try. My father has been kind enough to offer to co-sign the bank loan I need since I can’t use normal federal loans for this school.

-Finally, the next writing project will be the finale posts for the Endeavour, a Star Trek PBeM (Play-by-email) Sim I’ve been participating in for probably ten years off and on now. I’ve been terrible in doing this. And it’s time to get to work on it.

-I have a new idea for a story in the Scribe universe. I have a good setting, and the beginning of some characters, but I’m still looking for the conflict. Once that comes to me, it’ll be ready to go.

 

So tonight, I’ll be slaving away and cursing up a storm as I try to rewire half my house, set up a brand new computer, transfer data, connect the old Mac Mini to the TV and configure everything properly. I’ll whine and complain, but it’s one of those kind of complaining that I love. 😀

Until then, have fun!

-rks

 

Excepts Now Available!

I’m happy to say that I have three stories now up in the Novel Excerpts section of Storming Dawn. I’ve posted the first chapters of Soul of the Scribe, The Orion Project: Descent and Chick. For those interested, here’s a brief synopsis for each title…

Soul of the Scribe (Novella, 38K)

Within Rosan City, life and imagination are intertwined. Reality itself can change through the power of a well-told story, a heartfelt song or a magnificent painting.

When Master Scribe Ak receives an intriguing offer from the enigmatic tycoon known as The Reader, it seems too good to be true. But this commission may force Ak to revisit the darkest moment of his life and come to grips with a secret hidden for fifteen years.

The Orion Project: Descent (Novel 90K – Series in Progress)

Ten years after the Sinerian War, humanity steps into a golden age. And with the advent of time travel, Earth has the chance to study its history to better understand its future. But safeguards must be put into place to protect the timeline.

With government senators clamoring to close down the project for cost overruns, a series of bombings tear across the globe, killing two members of Delta Protectorate. Within minutes, the warning goes out…someone has changed history.

Jumping back into the past with an untested team, Delta discovers their reality has been erased. Alien artifacts appear in their most top-secret bases. And all the signs point to a traitor in their own ranks…

Chick (Novel/Novella In Progress)

“Chick’s Technical Support: Your One-Stop Shop for Nanite Technology Assistance.”

Julianne is almost ready to quit. Since that job a few weeks ago, Angie’s been more grumpy than normal. A simple timing malfunction stuck the former Marine engineer into the body of a petite Chinese teenage girl. Not like that’s anything out of the ordinary. Then there’s Gordon, who’s an eager little puppy who seems to get turned into something every job they get. And let’s not forget Paul, the handsome spoiled brat who simply loves to bully his way into laziness.

if it’s not darting cocooning hummingbirds, it’s rampaging centaurs or weird little blue furballs. She knew working for Chick wouldn’t be boring, but this is simply getting ridiculous…

Enjoy! Now it’s back to work for me!

-rks

OCCWF Conference 2012

I’ve been pushing myself really hard the last couple weeks and have found myself with no time for much of anything. Yesterday was more about venting and trying to process the issues I have at work, but today I want to focus on a few other things.

The Orange County Christian Writer’s Fellowship Conference went great. Really great.

Bill Myers

Bill Myers was our keynote speaker this year. At first, I didn’t know who he was, until I read his credits. And then I realized I did know who he was! He created “McGee and Me,” a Christian TV show that I used to watch as a child (http://www.mcgeeandme.com/). I was utterly thrilled to have him there. I have fond memories of the show.

But beyond that, he was utterly hysterical. His first address made it very plain he considered himself to be “a coward, a crybaby and a moron.” But he always said yes to God. So he had some amazing things happen in his life. Some amazing chances of success. The man went from wanting to be a dentist to being led into a career in film and writing. It’s an amazing story.

He challenged me quite a bit and everything he said hit me on a personal level. In his second keynote, he talked about the process of dreams God often puts us through. A great example of this is Joseph, who shot off it mouth about a dream where his entire family would bow to him, and got thrown in a well, sold into slavery then put in prison. He was given the chance for a shortcut (sleep with Pharaoh’s wife) and when he didn’t take it…he went right back into prison. Finally, at the end of it all, he was given something greater than his dreams could ever encompass: he became the savior of his people.

Dreams aren’t realized the next day, or the next month, or even the next year. Sometimes it takes a very long time of sitting in the dark, wondering if you’ll ever see the light again. But when that light comes, it will be far greater and far brighter than you ever imagined.

He also told a story about an author friend he knew who did a single page a day, 5 days a week for 5 years. He did it after coming home from a ski factory. And when he started trying to publish it, he got 13 rejection letters until some nut finally accepted his work. His name was Frank Perretti. 🙂

Consults:

I got to have consults (meetings) with Julie Brickman, a professor with Spalding University, Merrie Destefano, a science fiction/fantasy author, and Mike Duran, another science fiction and fantasy author. I got to spend lunch on the second day with Pamela Jaye Smith, a mythologist, writer and consultant.

I learned an enormous amount from these individuals. Julie Brickman looked at the manuscript for Soul of the Scribe and was impressed with a lot of the imagery, but a bit bored with the reflections and the wanderings. This is perfect, because I’ve tightened up the story quite a bit. In fact, I’m in the middle of my “slaughter edit” where I just tear apart the story and turn it into what it should be.

Merrie Destefano gave me some great references. Suggested Tor and SF&F Magazine for places to try and shop Scribe when it’s done. I also want to look into a SciFi/Fantasy story called Wool, which launched a man’s career through ebooks.Other suggestions include looking at “Publisher’s Marketplace.” And finally, as someone who loves to break gender boundaries and stereotypes, she commented there may be more stories like that out there than I know.

Mike Duran gave me some good suggestions as to Christian publishing opportunities, like WhereTheMapEnds.com and Marcher Lord Press.

Finally, Pamela Jaye Smith was wonderful to speak to at lunch. We talked about the plot idea for Scribe. I loved the look on her face when I threw out the tag line. Her eyes went big and she nodded, saying she’s interested. I pitched the idea to several people today and all of them were very interested. I’ve had comments that people have never quite heard a story like this before.

Other Parts

I became the official photographer for the event, since I was a volunteer and happened to bring my camera along with me. I had to do a lot of editing to get the pictures to come out. The Radisson Hotel had really bad lighting, at least for camera shots.

I also made a ton of great new contacts. I’m happy to have met these wonderful people, especially since I had the wonderful opportunity to run a critique group at the very end of the night. Some fantastic stories that utterly had me swept away.

And that was a good summary of the two days. I was a zombie by the end, my brain fried into nothingness. But it was a great time.

The best part is, I think it’s moving me in the right direction. It’s time to get stuff moving.

Because I intend to be shopping stories by autumn. 🙂

Have fun!

-rks

Conjunctions

I have a fairly big list for myself today. Besides the usual playing and cavorting with Caitlyn, I need to first post in my blog. Since I’m typing this right now after putting Caitlyn down for a nap, I can cross this off my list.

I finished reading the last two chapters of The Orion Project: Redemption yesterday while on lunch at the Cerritos Apple Store. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this. Some of it I really liked, but now that the refreshing has been done, it means I need to start writing again. And that’s hard.

On another matter, I’ve thought a bit more about what I can put up here. I’ve already put up a few placeholders for future stories I’ll be bringing over here from deviantArt. And I’m thinking of doing some of my good photography too.

I’m also planning on doing a retrospective on Mass Effect since the long-awaited Mass Effect 3 is coming out in less than a month. I wish I could lose interest in WoW for a bit so I could play all my characters in ME2, but we’ll see what happens.

Okay, enough dawdling. Time to get to work on Orion 2.